Monday, 25 October 2010

The cholera crisis

Some days, I feel like Africa is one giant game of 'any disaster you can do, we can do better' (or worse as the case may be). The UN today confirmed that more than 1500 people have died of cholera since January in Nigeria. My regular news sources are a-buzz with the outbreak that has killed 250 people in Haiti, but there is barely a murmur about the widespread crisis in Nigeria.

The quick coverage of and response to the outbreak in Haiti doesn't happen in Africa very often. To be fair, I did know there was a cholera problem in Nigeria, but largely from dedicated aid-news sources. Perhaps it's because editors and producers of media know that their audience is worn out with seeing pictures of Africans in crisis. Perhaps they are scared of being accused of portraying Africa negatively. Perhaps it is the fault of African news managers who - sometimes because their resources are limited, sometimes because they are lazy - prefer to focus on 'rich world' news rather than cover the realities close by. Perhaps I just read the wrong kind of news sources.

The discrepancy rankles, but ultimately it is not the point. What matters is that cholera - a preventable, treatable disease - has killed 250 people in Haiti and 1550 in Nigeria, largely because these people do not have access to clean water and sanitation. Perhaps the crisis in Haiti will sufficiently increase understanding that more people will support the ongoing efforts world-wide to improve water and sanitation for everyone.

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